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Online Support Sessions

During COVID, many people had to work from home and faced challenges such as finding it difficult to focus and be productive, experiencing stress about research progress and teaching activities, and struggling to work with children at home. In this difficult time, we could all use a little help.

That is why the Halkes Women Faculty Network in collaboration with the PhD Organisation Nijmegen (PON) organized a series of online support sessions. In total, we organized 11 sessions that took place on Monday 11 or Friday 15 May.

During the online support sessions, a small group of people discussed a topic of shared interest. Participants could share their experiences with people going through similar situation, support each other, and exchange tips and advice.

All sessions were guided by a facilitator from the Halkes Network board, the PON board, or the Donders Institute, which runs a peer coaching programs for employees. The facilitators were trained by coach and trainer Lizanne Roeleven, who also facilitated a session herself. We are very grateful to all facilitators and Lizanne for their help with this event!

Tips and advice

We believe that the advice that was shared during the sessions could not only benefit the people who participated in this event, but everyone at Radboud University, RadboudUMC, and beyond. That is why we asked facilitators to send us the best and most popular tips from their session(s) so that we can share them here.

Below, you can find a collection of tips and advice on four different topics: Motivation and productivity; Dealing with stress, anxiety, and negative thoughts; Combining work and childcare; and Facing the end of your contract during COVID.

Motivation and productivity


  1. Split big tasks into small concrete action goals that are easy to execute.
  2. Set realistic goals. What can you realistically do in the next hour? What about today or this week? Don’t set the bar too high.
  3. Decide in what order you are going to complete your tasks. That way, when you finish something, you already know what to do next.
  4. Mark your priorities in your to do list as well. Making sure you do something towards your most important goal (almost) every day.
  5. Use helpful apps like Flow Timer or apply the Pomodoro technique or another productivity method.
  6. Think about your routines and (re-) create (new) ones. People are creatures of habit, and in this period most our old habits are strained or gone. Good reads about habits and self-improvement are the books "The power of habit" by Charles Duhigg and "Desperately seeking self-improvement" by Carl Cederström and André Spicer.
  7. Have clear boundaries (in time and/or space). Now that we live our whole life and all our roles in the same space, is good to have boundaries to delimit our work life from the rest by keeping a separate place or at least time to work.
  8. Do you keep getting distracted? Remove the distractions from your immediate environment. Block social media and other websites that keep drawing your attention away.
  9. Find a work buddy! You can work together over Zoom. Alternatively, you can find a buddy who
  10. Create deadlines for yourself by declaring your intentions on what you will do to others, like your boss, your colleagues, or a family member. Make sure they will hold you accountable to do what you say you will do.
  11. Talk to your supervisor about expectations. In conversation with your supervisor, try to be more inquisitive and ask more detailed question about their expectations regarding your output and/or deadlines, and elaborate on their feedback. If they think you’re doing fine, why is that?
  12. Take breaks, put pleasure things on the task list, go outside and take walks. Moving your body means you are energizing your mind!
  13. Remember that we all have good (productive) and bad (unproductive) days, no matter if we work from home or from the office. Don’t be too hard of yourself or beat yourself up for not always being as productive as you’d like to be.


  1. It is easy to get stuck in the details. Try instead to take a helicopter view of your research. What is the big picture? What are you doing it all for?
  2. Consider talking to your supervisor, collaborators, or likeminded people about your project. They may give you a new perspective on your project and their enthusiasm may be contagious!
  3. Don’t ignore your negative feelings. Recognize them, acknowledge them, and allow yourself to feel them. If you acknowledge that you are angry, frustrated or sad or whatever, then the emotion will disappear. If you fight against it, the feeling will last longer.
  4. Take good care of yourself and be kind yourself. Make some non-work related plans!

Some sources:

Dealing with stress, anxiety, and negative thoughts

  1. Take care of yourself. Compare it to the oxygen mask on an airplane: first need to put on your own mask before you can help others. It’s the same with self-care.
  2. Try to maintain a (daily) routine as much as possible.
  3. At the end of your work day and at the end of the week, think about all the work you did. See the progress you made and give yourself credit for it!
  4. Think about what relaxes you and make a list of these things. Every day, plan what you want to do today to relax – pick from the list!
  5. Share your frustrations with your colleagues. It will remind you are not alone: many people are struggling. It’s normal and it’s okay.
  6. Share with your supervisor how you are feeling and what troubles you during this COVID period. If you worry about your PhD being delayed, discuss the scenarios and what you could do if they happened. If your supervisor is not worried, ask them why: maybe they have information or experience and can help you worry less as well.
  7. Think about what the worst-case scenario would be (e.g. “I cannot finish my PhD”). Think about what you find difficult about that scenario and what it teaches you about yourself. Then think about all the good things that you will still have if it happens (e.g. your friends, your family, your hobbies, your skills) and the good things that could happen afterwards (e.g. a second chance, a satisfying alternative career). Remember that you are going to be okay.

Combining work and childcare

  1. If you are being interrupted while working, try to set your boundaries. Get your partner to support you.
  2. If you feel guilty (for instance, about not being able to get more done or about taking time for yourself), feel the feeling and be aware of your experience but know that you don't have to necessarily act on it. In other words, you don't have to work more or do more simply because you're feeling guilty.
  3. Make time for pleasant moments by yourself, with your child(ren), and with your partner. You don't have to "earn" those pleasant moments by working extra hard; it's a part of life to enjoy the pleasant moments.
  4. Talk to your supervisor(s) about the tension you are experiencing and about the realistic amount of work you are able to do at this time. Communicate clearly and don't take on more than what is realistic.

Facing the end of your contract during COVID

How to job search & network

  1. Allocate time for your job search in your work schedule.
  2. Have a friend peer review your motivation letters and emails. What impression do you make? Do they have pointers for you?
  3. Build your network. Approach researchers you admire to talk about their paper or a talk they gave. You can do this via email or social media. Once you have an established connection, it feels like a smaller step to ask about job opportunities later.
  4. Be courageous! You may be shy or nervous about approaching people. However, try not avoiding or postponing it. Remember it’s okay and normal to network and ask about job opportunities.
  5. Keep an eye out for job opportunities or potential contacts on Twitter and other social media.

We thank the participants and facilitators of the sessions for sharing these tips and the facilitators for sending them to us so we could provide them here!